Family Tree Tuesday – Joseph Conrad
Polish novelist, Joseph Conrad was born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski on December 3, 1857 in Berdichev, Kiev Governorate (now Berdychiv, Ukraine). He was born into a highly patriotic, noble Polish family. His father, Apollo Korzeniowski, was a Polish poet, playwright, clandestine political activist and a translator of Alfred de Vigny and Victor Hugo from French and of Charles Dickens and Shakespeare from English. He encouraged his son to read widely in Polish and French. In 1861 Apollo Korzeniowski was arrested by Imperial Russian authorities in Warsaw, Poland, for helping organize what would become the January Uprising of 1863-64, and was exiled to Vologda, a city north of Moscow. Korzeniowski’s wife Ewelina Bobrowska and son followed him into exile.
Conrad was orphaned at the age of eleven. His mother died of tuberculosis in 1865 and his father died four years later, but two weeks before his death he supervised the burning of all the manuscripts of his own work that he had in his possession. Conrad was placed in the care of his maternal uncle Tadeusz Bobrowski who allowed him to travel at the age of sixteen to Marseille and to begin a career as a seaman.
In 1886 he gained both his Master Mariner’s certificate and British citizenship, officially changing his name to “Joseph Conrad.” After serving sixteen years in the merchant navy, Conrad retired from the sea to devote himself to a literary career. His adventurous life included gunrunning and political conspiracy, which he later fictionalised in his novel The Arrow of Gold.
In March 1896 Conrad married an Englishwoman, Jessie George. He subsequently lived in London and near Canterbury, Kent. The couple had two sons, John and Borys. Borys, wrote the book My Father: Joseph Conrad, published in 1970.
Conrad’s paternal grandfather, Teodor Korzeniowski was captain of the Polish army during the 1830 Insurrection against the Russian rule.
Tadeusz Bobrowski, Conrad’s uncle, was a Polish memoirist and social activist. Conrad dedicated his first novel, Almayer’s Folly to his uncle. Bobrowki’s brother, Stefan Bobrowski, advocated land reform and an end to serfdom in order to rally peasants to the cause, while at the same time he tried to ensure support of the szalchta. He also tried to establish links with potential revolutionaries within Russia who opposed the Tsar. Stefan Bobrowski died in 1863 in a duel with a member of the “White” faction, Count Adam Grabowski, to which he agreed but which he was sure to lose, on account of his extreme near-sightedness.
Check out Joseph Conrad’s family tree and see if you’re related!